Using colour to build a dementia-friendly environment
Dementia is an umbrella term for a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s physical and neurological function.1 Today, it is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years and older) with an estimated 425,416 Australians living with dementia.2
Developing a support system for people with dementia involves building a ‘dementia-friendly’ environment that caters to their individual requirements.3 It is important to recognise the role that such a support system plays in enabling maximum engagement in everyday life.
People impacted by dementia undergo a variety of changes including loss of memory, social skills, coordination, and vision among others. For example, they may face deterioration to some aspects of their vision, such as their field of vision, acuity (clarity), pupil dilation, reaction to light, depth perception, eye-head coordination, and colour perception.4
Changes in vision and its impact may vary between individuals and it is imperative that these changes be recognised and addressed.
The use of visual aids and the strategic use of colour in everyday objects can play an integral role in providing enhanced access and orientation with their surroundings. Consideration of lighting and colour can also play a key role in ensuring the environment is suitable for people living with dementia.
The use of contrasting colours in everyday objects such as a red rimmed plate on a white tablecloth, or a blue toilet seat on a white background can allow key objects to be distinguished more easily. Conversely, the use of similar colour hues such as whites and creams can allow certain objects to be ‘hidden’ from view, such as switchboards.5
People with dementia may also show a loss of depth perception. ‘Busy’ patterns on the floor or other surfaces may be seen to confuse or act as an obstacle or barrier. Shadows can sometimes be perceived as a change in level or height and can contribute to falls risk. These risks can be minimised or eliminated by ensuring even and adequate lighting around the rooms.5
Some people may even find reflections from mirrors to be confronting or frightening and is often best avoided.5
This September being Dementia Awareness Month, you can also make a big difference for people impacted by dementia, their families and carers by visiting www.dementiafriendly.org.au and signing up to become a Dementia Friend today, and learning more about how you can create a safer environment.1
Click here to view our range of Dementia Aids.
- Dementia Australia ‘What is Dementia?’. Available from https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia/what-is-dementia. Accessed 7 Sept 2018.
- Dementia Australia ‘Key Facts and Statistics’. Available from https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics. Accessed 7 Sept 2018.
- Fleming, Richard, Fiona Kelly, and Gillian Stillfried. “‘I Want to Feel at Home’: Establishing What Aspects of Environmental Design Are Important to People with Dementia Nearing the End of Life.” BMC Palliative Care 14 (2015): 26. PMC. Web. 11 Sept. 2018.
- Armstrong RA “Alzheimer’s Disease and the Eye”. Journal of Optometry. Vol2. Num3. July-Sept 2009, 101-158.
- Dementia Australia – Help Sheets. Available from: https://www.dementia.org.au/resources/help-sheets Accessed 11 Sept 2018.